Tag Archives: Pixies

A Case Of You

We lay on our backs, on her bed downstairs in her upside down house. Flush. Silent. Smiling. She was resting her head in the crook of her arm, thrown back behind her. Gently she pushed herself up onto her elbow, resting her cheek in her hand to face towards me.

“First lines” she said.

I looked at her and leant over to push a strand of hair back from her face. “I was hoping for a better reaction than that to be honest”.

“Stop fishing” she grinned. “I wouldn’t be asking about first lines if I wasn’t happy about that.” It hung there a moment. “A little longer might have been nice…” She started to laugh and I pulled the pillow from behind her and half heartedly caught her round the head with it. I relented as she protested, through stifled laughter, that she was just teasing.

“First lines” she tried again. “Lyrics. First line of a song and the other person has to guess.”

“Really ?”

“It’s a good way to get to know someone” she said. “If you want this to all happen again then indulge me.”

“Okay, let me think.”

“Come on, come on, don’t think too hard about it.”

“Alright, how about ‘I never thought that it would happen with me and the girl from Clapham’ ?”

“Too easy. You can’t have that. Besides I’m from Brighton and easily jealous.”

I let my head fall back into the pillow and stared at the ceiling. She started to impatiently drum her fingers on the duvet.

“And this I know… his teeth as white as snow.” I said it to the ceiling and then rolled over to face her, smiling. “You must know that.”

She started repeating it, furrowing her brow. “Ah man, I do know that” she said. I watched her struggle to recall it, letting my eyes follow the line of her neck down to an exposed shoulder. There hadn’t been much time to look the night before. She felt my eyes on her and caught my gaze, eyebrow raised in enquiry.

“Are we playing my game or checking each other out ?” she asked, the hint of a smile.

“I thought we were doing both” I replied.

“Ha ! A clever one. Always beware the clever ones” she laughed. I watched her mouth twist and dance as she moved through expressions of curiosity, amusement, and mock outrage before leaning in to kiss her. She responded and then pulled away. “Okay, so not just a clever one. That I also remember from last night.”

We looked at each other for a minute, both lost in our own thoughts, before I broke the silence. I started to sound out the repeating, circular bass line from the song that I’d asked her to guess. Round and round, over and over. “And this I know… his teeth as white as snow…”. She clutched at her head.

“This is infuriating. I know it. I bloody know it.”

“Hey Paul, hey Paul, hey Paul, let’s have a ball…” I sang quietly.

“The Pixies. It’s The Pixies” she shouted. “Gigantic. Really ?” She raised both eyebrows this time, a kind of bemused admonishment.

“You know what that song’s about, right ?” I asked, grinning.

“Stop leering” she said. “I believe that song’s about a ‘big, big love’. Don’t kid yourself mister.” I started singing the chorus softly – “gigantic, gigantic, a big big love” – only to hear her join in besides me, mockingly singing “average, average, a mid sized love”.

“Alright, alright, stop” I protested. “I have very fragile self esteem.”

“Yeah, of course you do” she said.

“Besides, it’s Pixies. Not The Pixies. Just Pixies.”

“Like I said” she groaned. “A clever one.”

I stared at her again as we lay on our sides, the duvet tracing the rise of her hip and curve of her waist. “You checking me out again ?” she asked softly.

“Maybe” I conceded. “I was wondering what yours would be ?

“Mine ?”

“First line. It’s only fair. I’ve given you two. What’s yours ?”. She looked away and, for the first time, she seemed uncertain. Eventually she looked back at me and replied.

“Here goes then. Mine’s always the same when I play this game. You ready ?” I nodded. “Just before our love got lost you said ‘I am as constant as a northern star’…” She paused.

“Constant in the darkness ? Where’s that at ?” I finished. There was a sharp, surprised intake of breath. People’s jaws don’t really fall open but surprise registered on her face. Surprise and something else; a cautious, tentative delight.

“You know that ?” she said.

“Joni ? Are you kidding ? Of course I know Joni. We’ve all had our heart broken, right ?” Again she looked away, let her eyes roam the room as if searching for the right reply, as if she’d pinned it up somewhere in preparation for this. Without making eye contact she finally said:

“Too many times.” Again, more quietly. “Too many times.”

I reached over and took her hand, tugged it gently so that she’d turn and face me again, waited until she did. “Maybe not this time, eh ?” I said.

“I barely know you” she said with a sigh. “There have been a few I’ve barely known. But, after, there’s always Joni.”

“Well Joni’s my go to heartbreak record too” I said. “So we’ve got a problem.”

“How’d you figure ?”

“If this doesn’t work we can’t both sit around, separate, listening to the same song. Knowing the other person’s listening to it. That song’s for me when I break up with someone.”

“No, no, no. It’s for me”

“Exactly. You see the dilemma.”

“So why don’t we share her ?” She asked it lightly, passing it off as a throwaway question.

“I’d like that.” I said. “I think I’d like that a lot.”

She leaned over and kissed me before whispering. “A case of you. I really, really love that song. I better still be on my feet mister.”

“You will be” I whispered back.

……

This is the ninth story in my series of 42 shorts that I’m writing to raise money and awareness for Mind, the mental health charity. Please share it if you liked it (or even if you didn’t…). If you’re interested in donating to a great cause then please visit my fundraising page. https://www.justgiving.com/42shorts/

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Here we are now, entertain us

23. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana (The Spam Ducks / Brian Clough)

I know, I know. Too obvious, right ? Well, I kind of agree but it’s not on the list, not entirely at least, for the obvious reasons. It’s here as much for the, ahem, spirited cover version of it that I was once involved in as it is for kicking in the door to the mainstream for a slew of US alternative bands in the early 90s.

There’s a whole host of musical “scenes” that I could lay claim to have been part of. Part of in the sense of associating with, using as a badge of identity, rather than literally being part of obviously – there isn’t about to be a big reveal wherein I announce that I was actually the bassist in Buffalo Tom. Any of the following would have just about fallen into my later formative years:  Madchester, acid house, the tail end of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (sort of), glam / hair metal, and stretching it a bit, C86 if I’d started early and Britpop if I’d started late. Whilst there were bits in all of those that I loved at various stages, including a long infatuation with Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” which baffles me now, I never really felt like I belonged to any of them. For me it was all about the explosion of primarily American bands that emerged in the late 80s and early 90s playing, for want of a better term, alternative rock. Key reference points would include Pixies, Throwing Muses, Belly, Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, Buffalo Tom, and Pavement, as well as people like Teenage Fanclub, Ride, and The Wedding Present from the UK.

At around the same time – 1990 to be precise – I began to learn to play the guitar. Play probably isn’t the right verb. Work would be closer, for both me and anyone unfortunate enough to be listening. I learned – in those heady days before any of us had the internet – via correspondence with a friend who used to send me little chord diagrams in the post, gradually progressing to a sort of rudimentary tablature. He’d gone on to University, along with most of my school friends, whilst I waited another year to do fun things like retake a couple of exams and have knee surgery. That year did give me the time and inclination to pick up the guitar though so perhaps these things happen for a reason.

I think the first song I could vaguely bash my way through was “My Favourite Dress” by The Wedding Present but playing guitar also meant that I could begin to relieve myself of vocal duties in the finest band ever to emerge from the villages of the South Gloucestershire area. I’ve relived the glory days of The Muppets elsewhere in this blog but they were not the first band I was a part of. No, that honour belongs to The Spam Ducks who later morphed into Brian Clough. Not literally.

The Ducks / Clough had various line ups over a period of a couple of years but was principally the result of the friendship between three of us – Ian, Russ and myself. Those are their real names. I feel they should shoulder as much responsibility for this as me. The band was an excuse for us to mess around and entertain our friends – we would periodically put on a show at a local village hall. On very, very rare occasions we convinced ourselves that we sounded okay. We had a certain ramshackle charm perhaps, often depending on who we’d persuaded to play drums (never underestimate the power of a good drummer to make a bad band sound okay). I think we mainly did it to make each other laugh and, on that score, we were the greatest band in rock history.

As none of us could really play that well we ended up having more of our own songs than covers; we usually couldn’t play the covers. Song writing involved someone coming up with three chords – some variation on D C G proving especially popular – and someone else turning up with a set of lyrics. I say lyrics… Quite often I think a good idea for a song title arising from something we found funny was then stretched out beyond the point of absurdity. So our set typically included: “Washing Machine On My Mind” (it’s tough on dirt, it’s not kind), “Soap On A Rope” (sitting in my bathtub, it’s not a tin one), “Fishfinger” (genuinely with no adolescent sex-gag connotations – it was about fishfingers that you, you know, eat), and “Alan” (Alan, I’d rather drink a gallon… of beer… than have you near…). “Soap On A Rope” was actually a pretty good little punk song.

When we did venture into cover versions it was typically something by The Wedding Present which was helpful in that a) most of the songs were three chords, b) the vocals don’t require much by way of singing ability, and c) no one in the audience really knew the songs anyway. That all changed when we decided to take on “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, one of the biggest songs of 1991 and so called anthem for Generation X. So how did we approach Kurt Cobain’s sarcastic, contradictory call for teenage revolution ?

We did it sat in large, high backed armchairs with Ian reciting the lyrics in a bluff Northern accent (part Mark E Smith, part Python Four Yorkshireman sketch). There may have been an odd call and response element to the “hello” “hello” bit leading into the chorus involving waving. It is fair to say that we made the song our own. I think Kurt would have approved. If Bill Drummond had done it people would have called it art.

That was one of our last performances and who knows what we might have gone on to accomplish ? We were definitely branching out into experimental territory – we had supported ourselves at that gig as The Living Carpets (stolen entirely from Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer) and performed the theme song to children’s TV show “Heathcliff” with large pieces of carpet taped around our heads. I guess to an outsider it would have looked like kids making a godawful racket, full of in jokes and nonsense but for us it was just hugely fun. Part of the point, as well, was to provide some entertainment for our friends – even if sometimes they got to laugh at us rather than with us – and hopefully we managed a little of that too.

I don’t listen to “Teen Spirit” very often anymore. Don’t listen to “Nevermind” much to be honest – time hasn’t been kind to the production and I think “In Utero” is a far superior record. For a long time though Nirvana were really important to me. It sounds kind of sad but I can strongly recall hearing the news about Cobain’s death and I was affected by it. That was still no excuse for spending a couple of years trying unsuccessfully to ape his hairstyle though. To everyone that witnessed it: I am truly sorry.

When I do listen to “Teen Spirit” now I tend to remember Russ struggling to switch his distortion pedal off, hear Ian bellowing “hello hello” like he’s Graham Chapman at the start of the Spanish Inquisition skit, and see a group of old school friends staring at us in a mixture of amusement and bemusement. It makes me smile.